بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
وصلى الله تعالى على خاتم النبيين
In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus allegedly said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:16-18, KJV)
Now this passage in the Gospel of Mark is disputed in its authenticity, as it does not appear in the earliest manuscripts. The original Gospel of Mark has an abrupt ending at verse 8 of the 16th chapter, and there is no mention of the Great Commission which is in the disputed “Longer Ending”. Nevertheless, some Christians believe in the “Longer Ending” and act upon its teachings. For example, some Charismatic and Pentecostal churches in Appalachia practice “snake handling”. A Pentecostal minister, George Went Hensley (1881-1955), introduced or at least popularized snake handling as a form of worship, based on the verse “they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them”. Ironically, Hensley died from a deadly snakebite, indicating he did not truly believe, or at least the weakness of his faith, as per his own standard and understanding of the Biblical passage. In summary, while many Christians believe in the longer ending in Mark 16, very few, limited to some churches in Appalachia, practice snake handling, a testament to the weakness of faith or insincerity of most Christians today.
As for Islam, it does not teach that not being harmed by snakebites or from drinking poison is a necessary sign or indication of faith. However, not being harmed by such things may indeed be a miraculous gift from Allah ﷻ as a sign of an individual’s faith and trust in Him. After the conquest of Khaybar, a Jewess or a group of Jews presented a poisoned roast to the Prophet ﷺ intending to assassinate him. Although he had eaten some of it, before being miraculously informed that it was poisoned, he survived that poisoning, although one of his companions, Bishr bin Bara’ al-Ansari immediately died. This incident occurred after the conquest of Khaybar, in the seventh year after the Hijrah, while the Prophet ﷺ passed away three years later, in the tenth year after the Hijrah. Likewise, there is the well known incident of Khalid bin Walid drinking poison intentionally and surviving without being harmed. Before he drank the poison, he made the following supplication:
بسم الله وبالله رب الأرض ورب السماء الذي لا يضر مع اسمه داء
“In the Name of Allah, and by Allah, Lord of Earth and Lord of Heaven, in Whose Name no harmful, diseased (thing) can harm”
Ibn Taymiyah has mentioned this, and stated:
من السلف من يأتي بالآيات دلالة على صحة الاسلام، وصدق الرسول، كما ذكر أن خالد بن الوليد شرب السم لما طلب منه آية، ولم يضره
From the Salaf came certain individuals with Signs for the purpose of proving the veracity of Islam and the truthfulness of the Apostle, for example, Khalid bin al-Walid drinking poison when he was asked for a sign, and it did not harm him (an-Nubuwwat; pp. 140, 825)
Recently, in his debate with two Christians, shaykh Asrar Rashid in the UK challenged them with the above cited passage in Mark 16. The Christian lady, who could only speak broken English, was challenged to “speak in new tongues” and they were both challenged to drink from a bottle of rat poison. The Christian gentleman in the debate was then forced to admit that the passage in Mark 16 is disputed in its authenticity (thereby unwittingly handing the Muslim side a victory in the debate), while the Christian lady attempted to turn the tables by claiming that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said Muslims could drink poison and eat a date afterwards (she did not provide any source for this ridiculous allegation). Nevertheless, for the purpose of demonstrating his faith and the truth of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, shaykh Asrar Rashid unhesitatingly drank a good amount from the bottle of rat poison. He not only survived, but did not feel any pain or sickness:
Those who doubt whether it was real poison should remember that the shaykh did not intend to drink it himself, but offer it as a challenge to the Christians based on the passage in Mark 16. It was only because the Christian lady attempted to turn the tables on him and challenged him to drink the poison did he do so, otherwise he clearly did not intend to drink from it.
However, certain elements within the Muslim community have criticized and even ridiculed shaykh Asrar Rashid for having drunk poison. They are apparently unaware of the example of Khalid bin al-Walid . In conclusion, Muslims who are confident in their faith may, for the purpose of demonstrating the truth of Islam, drink poison and they shall not be harmed by the power of Allah.